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With today’s front page lead, The Age has sought to increase its attack on the Abbott government’s climate change policies through a survey of 35 economists. There is scope to do so but The Age misses and does not even find a “consensus” amongst economists. Nor do today’s media reveal a consensus about the dangerous warming thesis or the IPCC V report or the connection to bushfires. It may be premature to suggest it but some sections of the media seem to be writing themselves out of an audience – or only to one that may be insufficient to keep them going. The Guardian story in today’s Herald Sun is of particular interest.


Tony Abbott's new direct action sceptics
(Article - front page lead, by Matt Wade and Gareth Hutchens published in The Age 28 October 2013.)

'Courseness, amateurishness and viciousness'

Americans will see Tony Abbott as uncouth, course and amateurish, according to international relations expert, Dr Clinton Fernandes, after the PM criticised his Labor predecessors in a Washington Post interview.

Leading economists have overwhelmingly rejected Tony Abbott's direct action climate change policy and backed carbon pricing.

A Fairfax Media survey of 35 prominent university and business economists found only two believed direct action was the better way to limit Australia's greenhouse gas emissions. Thirty - or 86 per cent - favoured the existing carbon price scheme. Three rejected both schemes.

A global increase in temperature needs to be limited to two degrees. Photo: Simon O Dwyer

Internationally renowned Australian economist Justin Wolfers, of the Washington-based Brookings Institution and the University of Michigan, said he was surprised that any economists would opt for direct action, under which the government will pay for emissions cuts by businesses and farmers from a budget worth $2.88 billion over four years.

Professor Wolfers said direct action would involve more economic disruption but have a lesser environmental pay-off than an emissions trading scheme, under which big emitters must pay for their pollution.

BT Financial's Dr Chris Caton said any economist who did not opt for emissions trading "should hand his degree back".

Debate rages as economists concur.

The survey comes as the Abbott government prepares to introduce legislation next month to repeal the carbon price scheme and as debate rages over whether climate change is linked to bushfires.

Mr Abbott last week said he accepted climate change was real, but suggestions that it was linked to fires was "complete hogwash".

In 2011, Mr Abbott took a swipe at some who had criticised the Coalition's scheme, saying "maybe that's a comment on the quality of our economists rather than on the merits of argument''.

Any economist who didn't opt for emissions trading "should hand his degree back", says Chris Caton. Photo: Tamara Voninski

The extraordinary challenge of limiting global warming to less than 2 degrees - the level scientists consider necessary - was underlined by a new report by European consultants Ecofys that found Australia would have to cut emissions by at least 27 per cent by 2020 to play its part.

Australia has a bipartisan target of 5 per cent below 2000 levels by 2020. The Climate Change Authority - set up by Labor and which the Coalition plans to abolish - will this week release its draft recommendation on Australia's 2020 target.

The carbon scheme started as a fixed price - or tax - and is due to become an emissions trading scheme in July 2015. A trading scheme places a cap on emissions and requires big emitters to buy a permit for every tonne of carbon dioxide they release. Permits can be traded, allowing businesses that cut emissions to save money.

Several economists surveyed said the weight of international evidence showed that carbon dioxide emissions could be reduced more efficiently through a broadbased market mechanism such as a trading scheme. "That seems to be the way that the major economies are headed - not uniformly, unfortunately," CBA economist Michael Workman said.

Some said the direct action plan would rely too much on bureaucratic decisions. "If I had to make a choice between pricing carbon and having bureaucrats allocating permits, then I'm going to go for the market mechanism every time," Rob Henderson, a National Australia Bank senior economist, said.

But Australian National University professor Warwick McKibbin said none of the policies on offer in Australia was sufficiently robust. He said the direct action plan could achieve emission reductions, but at higher cost per unit than a well-designed carbon price.

Professor McKibbin predicted a hybrid policy would eventually be adopted.

University of Queensland professor Paul Frijters, one of two economists who favoured the Coalition approach, said he would not describe it as "direct action" but simply as "no action".

"I think the government's current policy of 'no policy' is exactly the right one to take for a small country like Australia," he said.

Commsec's Craig James, who also supported the Coalition's policy, said the standard economic assumption that markets could solve almost anything was not right. He said markets could fail and might be the wrong response to an environmental problem.

"The attempts that the Europeans have made so far have been less than stellar," Mr James said.

Mr James also said he was sceptical that humans were having a serious impact on climate.

A spokesman for Environment Minister Greg Hunt did not respond directly to the survey results, but said the Australian people had voted to repeal the carbon tax.

"The simple fact is the carbon tax does not work," he said.

"The Coalition government is committed to reducing Australia's domestic emissions by 5 per cent by 2020. Labor's carbon tax will not achieve this target. Domestic emissions are set to rise from 560 million tonnes to 637 million tonnes, between 2010 and 2020, under the carbon tax. Labor's carbon tax does a lot of damage to households and businesses, yet it doesn't even do the job."

Heat's on for record bushfire season
(Editorial in The Age, 28 October 2013.)

With more record temperatures, the risk of bushfires increases every year. Photo: NSW Rural Fire Service

As a weather presenter I sometimes feel like a broken record. Literally.

The words "record breaking" are becoming a standard turn of phrase spun around a wheel of statistics released by the bureau each day, month, season and year.

As temperatures rise and new highs are set across the state and country, new extremes are becoming less significant. Instead they're becoming the norm.

In NSW the angry summer has reared its ugly head. The problem is it's a season too early.

So far Sydney has had its warmest start to spring on record which follows the second warmest winter on record for NSW.

Last summer it was the hottest on record for Australia and we've just come off the back of the hottest September ever recorded.

The cocktail was never looking good. Little rainfall, persistent dry winds and hot days are the ingredients for such ferocious fire conditions and as NSW (continues to contain the worst bushfires in over a decade), here in WA the summer could pose a similar threat.

Perth is heating up after a wet start to spring and while many of us are rejoicing the late seasonal shift, alarm bells have already sounded with the Australian Fire and Emergency Service.

It may have felt wet in recent months but Perth and the South West have seen below average rainfall this year with a particularly dry start to winter.

This lack of rainfall has meant there's insufficient soil moisture and high fuel loads, providing a dangerous concoction for fires, and a potentially more active bushfire season.

On top of the current conditions in WA, we're facing a 60 per cent chance of seeing above average temperatures this summer, while northern areas of the state have an 80 per cent chance.

Fitzroy Crossing is well on the way. The Kimberley town has had 27 consecutive days above 40 degrees, the longest October hot spell on record.

Depending on the weather patterns, all it takes are dry, sustained winds to sweep continual heat from the desert down to the south west and across the country.  It's a synoptic set up NSW has experienced over the last few months.

But the broken record tale is telling of a much bigger story than freak weather phenomena.

Sure, there are natural variations in our weather and climate and one single weather catastrophe cannot be pinned to climate change, but record heat is recurring and weather extremes are growing more frequent and intense.

In an interview with CNN, UN climate chief Christiana Figueres pointed to the facts earlier this week: "What is absolutely clear is the science is telling us that there are increasing heat waves in Asia, Europe, and Australia; that there these will continue; that they will continue in their intensity and in their frequency."

In the "heat" of the moment, as the NSW bushfires raged last week, the debate around climate politics and carbon pricing became centre stage.

It's an ongoing argument that for many has become much more than a political debate.

Instead it's a health and safety threat, effecting vulnerable communities and emergency services. A threat that will, according to 25 years of science, be more regular and harder to manage if greenhouse gas emissions continue at current levels.

Just as Figueres told CNN, we're already paying the price of carbon. "We are paying the price with wildfires, we are paying the price with droughts, we are paying the price with all sorts disturbances to the hydrological cycle."

So is it time we stopped talking about record breaking weather and time to talk about our changing climate? A question also asked earlier this month in response to a new study undertaken by the University of Hawaii.

Scientists have found that as early 2038 some regions of the globe will "enter into a new climate territory" and the average temperature across the globe will push outside the extreme records of the past 150 years by 2047. The climate, as we know it, will be a thing of the past.

As the broken record continues to spin, it's spinning a cycle of extremes consistent with a long term warming trend both in Australia and globally.

So as we gear up for the long western summer ahead with the increasing impact of heat waves and fire threats, planning for the bushfire season has never been more important.

For more information on planning for bushfire protection go to the RFS website.

Critique of IPCC V Report

Following is a summary of the critique of the IPCC V report by representatives of the US Science & Environmental Policy Project, who include Professor Bob Carter.

“NIPCC Review: Four of the authors on the latest report of the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC), Craig Idso, Robert Carter, Fred Singer, and Willie Soon, have written a review of the Summary for Policymakers (SPM) by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). They find that the IPCC has retreated on at least 11 alarmist claims in prior reports. They also find the new SPM has at least 13 misleading or false statements, and that another 11 statements are phrased to mislead the readers or misrepresent important aspects of the science.

Among the retreats was that IPCC recognizes:

The last retreat is particularly significant. According to government reports, since 1993 the US spent at least $150 Billion on climate change activities, at least $35 Billion on what was categorized as climate science; yet, there has been no improvement in the scientific knowledge of the influence of atmospheric CO2 on temperatures. This failure to advance scientific knowledge supports Richard Lindzen's contention that the entire program is not designed to answer critical questions.

Among the 13 misleading or untrue statements uncovered by the NIPCC team are:

The 11 instances of deceptive language include: For further NIPCC comments and rebuttals to IPCC statements see link under NIPCC Reports. For Richard Lindzen's critique of the climate establishment see link under Challenging the Orthodoxy.”

No end to the Bill shock for Shorten
(Article by Andrew Bolt published in the Herald Sun, 28 October 2013.)

Bill Shorten on winning the Labor leadership at least conceded Labor had made mistakes. Source: Getty Images

TO celebrate his 50 days since winning the election, Tony Abbott made a special meal - of "Electricity Bill" Shorten.

What the Prime Minister did last weekend to the Opposition Leader in just one sentence should terrify Labor. He put a label on Shorten that will stick like Tarzan's Grip, reminding voters Shorten is keeping power bills too high by stopping Abbott in the Senate from scrapping the carbon tax.

"That's what people will be thinking every time their power bill comes in until the carbon tax goes - that's Electricity Bill who's responsible," Abbott said.

Labor's fantasy then shattered.

Since the election, Shorten and Labor have kidded themselves that they lost government just by being bastards to each other - that whole Rudd and Gillard thing.

Otherwise, they'd done a great job.


You'd think politicians couldn't be in such denial after such a hiding - Labor winning just 55 seats to the Coalition's 90.

But hear it from Labor Senate leader Penny Wong: "We did not lose government because we didn't manage the economy well ... We have been held to account for our disunity."

Hear this same magic mushroom talk from Senator Doug Cameron: ''I think we lost the election through disunity". Same from Anthony Albanese, who ran against Shorten for the leadership: "You do get marked down when there's a perception or reality of disunity".

And Shorten, when he beat Albanese, kept feeding that folly. He spelled out not one change he'd make to Labor other than this: he'd have "zero tolerance for disunity".

It's all madness, of course. Rudd was not sacked by his colleagues in 2010 because they were suddenly disloyal. He was sacked because of what had made them disloyal - his chaotic leadership and dud policies that had Labor support in free fall.

The public had suddenly seen through this monstrously vain man who'd squandered so much money and trust. (Remember Grocery Watch, Fuel Watch, "the greatest moral challenge", the boats, the school halls?)

Same with Gillard. If she'd been a good leader, there would have been no disloyalty. No Rudd.

In fact, she was catastrophically bad and politically poisonous. She broke promises, wasted even more billions, blew the Budget, and bungled everything from border policy to cattle exports.

And of all her policies, none cost her more than the carbon tax - both a needless cost and a broken promise. A symbol of Labor's green extremism and its deceit.

Disloyalty didn't kill Labor. Bad leadership and bad policies did.

But Labor is now so arrogant, so bloated with moral self-importance, that it refuses to admit it's selling what few voters want to buy.

True, Shorten, on winning the leadership at least conceded Labor had made mistakes. But he spelled out none and embraced the worst.

He praised the National Broadband Network, which the Coalition will soon expose as a financial disaster worse than most critics warned.

He also stuck by the national disability insurance scheme, which threatens to become a bank-breaking bureaucratic and welfare nightmare.

Worst of all, Shorten insisted "it's important to maintain a price on carbon pollution". I know Shorten is stuck. If he drops the carbon tax, either as a fixed or floating price, many green-worshipping Labor voters will have his guts for garters.

That wouldn't matter so much if Labor's idiotic new leadership rules didn't now give members half the say in who leads them.

But if Shorten sticks by a carbon price he will be savaged at the next election. Abbott's blast on Saturday was just the first salvo.

How could Shorten possibly go to an election promising to bring back a tax that Abbott will by then have scrapped with the help of next year's new Senate?

Vote for Electricity Bill.

Did Abbott help fool Labor into thinking it could get away with this?

In his first 50 days, Abbott has done comparatively little media, and kept his ministers fairly mute. He's not been overtly political, preferring to send voters the message he's too busy getting on with running things.

Labor might have hoped it could then be the hound and Abbott the hare. It would attack, Abbott defend.

But last weekend something changed. Abbott savaged Shorten for the first time since the election, revealing he still can be the damaging streetfighter he was in Opposition.

Labor must now know it cannot dodge the debate it's refused to have since its defeat. How can it drop the carbon tax and walk from the green faith that ruined two prime ministers and made Labor seem dictatorial?

What new causes should it take up to prove it's still the party for idealists? This is serious work, and Shorten, a smart man, can do it. Electricity Bill cannot.

SBS programming to costly to bare
(Article by Andrew Bolt published in the Herald Sun, 28 October 2013.)

SBS was created for people just like my dad, and now sucks up more than $200 million a year of taxpayers' money.

It says it's there to "ensure that all Australians, including the estimated three million Australians who speak a language other than English in their homes, are able to share in the experiences of others, and participate in public life".

But public life or pubic life?

I've clicked on SBS on Demand - recent viewing SBS recommends and lets you watch again - and found that when SBS wants me to "share in the experience of others", those "others" include the hookers of Call Girls: The Truth and the strippers of Striptease Unveiled.

They also include three Norwegians on The Sex Show "on a mission to learn, discover and experience what the sexual word has to offer", and sex researchers on Masters of Sex - Thank You for Coming.

That SBS is now the Sex Broadcasting Service is not new.

Its past attractions famously include My Penis And I, about a brave man struggling with a small penis, and Stacked Like Me, about brave women struggling with big breasts.

It's also shown When Sex Goes Wrong, The Sperminator, Stripperella, Why Men Wear Frocks, Sexual Intelligence, My 100,000 Lovers and Pornography: The Musical.

SBS insists this isn't soft porn. See, it's a scientific fact that porn shot in French is actually art, and art is what immigrants need.

But the Abbott Government last week asked a commission of audit to find big savings - to "identify areas or programs where Commonwealth involvement is . . . no longer needed", given "government should do for people what they cannot do, or cannot do efficiently, for themselves, but no more".

Fact is, SBS no longer does for people what they cannot do for themselves. I've installed a satellite dish for just over $400 so I can watch more Dutch programs in a week than SBS has in a year. I can also watch lots of Arabic programs.

Why not ask immigrants who want foreign programs to likewise put up a dish?

Hell, for what we pay SBS in just one year, we could make the dishes half price for the first million homes.

Here are the questions Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger won't be asked
(Article by Alan Howe published in the Herald Sun, 28 October 2013.)

The Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger will soon be in Australia and on stage - and there are questions he should be asked. Source: AFP

WHEN asked once about the future of newspapers, the editor of London's The Guardian said it was beyond his control. He added that it was readers who would decide the fate of newspapers.

Readers have certainly decided the fate of his. Perhaps no modern editor has presided over such a vertiginous collapse in circulation as Alan Rusbridger, apparently a modest man and with much to be modest about.

He has edited The Guardian for 18 years and while his paper once showed signs of life, a decade-long lurch towards oblivion has seen it shed almost 52 per cent of its sales.

A breathless publicity blurb turned up recently announcing that Rusbridger - our ABC describes him as a media innovator - will soon be in Australia and on stage talking to Annabel Crabb.

Rusbridger will "offer an insider's perspective on maintaining a free press and holding authorities to account".

Really? I wouldn't buy a ticket to hear the wisdom of Rusbridger: The Guardian has long had a reputation for being untrustworthy; Rusbridger was a journeyman reporter at best; and his missteps as editor have been serious and costly.

He once wrote a typically lame and predictably cynical piece about Rupert Murdoch moving his London titles to Wapping while risking the entire company to outwit the print unions whose "work" practices had held an industry to ransom.

Rusbridger struggled with the facts. Creating a false picture of anger and chaos in the first hours of the move, Rusbridger reported that journalists could call on "assorted clutches of Australians and Americans" for help.

"One of them," he wrote, "was Alan Howe ... He had a familiar face. That's right. He was the chap knocking round the office last year."

Knocking round the office? I was English and had worked at The Times for five years.

Ungrateful, ill-informed journalists, like Rusbridger, who jeered at Wapping from the sidelines, were soon unshackled by the revolution their bosses had not the courage to undertake.

I doubt he'll be telling Annabel Crabb about that, but she should ask him.

Can't see him boasting either about his newspaper's coverage of Amina Arraf, a young Syrian woman whose picture and blog - A Gay Girl In Damascus - also enchanted Fairfax here.

According to The Guardian, Amina posted "frank and witty thoughts on Syria's uprising" until she was abducted.

"She was kidnapped last night as she and a friend were on their way to a meeting," Rusbridger's newspaper stated as fact, witnesses describing the offenders as three men in their early 20s.

But there was no Amina. And no abduction. She was the creation of a clumsy American hoaxer, Tom MacMaster. The photograph of "Amina" was Jelena Lecic and had been stolen from Lecic's Facebook account.

"I was very upset with The Guardian," Lecic said at the time. "Because I complained twice yesterday and nobody got in touch with me. It's a breach of privacy and it put me in great danger."

Until last year The Guardian insisted that Tel Aviv was the capital of Israel, a false claim mostly used to delegitimise the Middle East's only democracy and a line usually only pursued by militant Palestinians intent on destroying that country. The newspaper backed down only after legal threats and the risk of further international embarrassment.

If she is doing her job properly, Crabb should interrogate Rusbridger about his stand on that lie and the tenor of internal debates at the newspaper over the issue.

After all, this was the newspaper that published - in the wake of the London bombings that killed 52 - an editorial by Dilpazier Aslam explaining that the capital could hardly be surprised by the murderous violence given the anger of young British Muslims no longer prepared to "ignore injustice".

"We rock the boat," it was headlined. Only later did The Guardian concede that Aslam was a member of a group called Hizb ut-Tahrir, vicious Islamists out to overthrow Western governments, kill infidels and introduce Sharia law.

The paper's readers' editor has upheld complaints about the anti-Semitic slant of its writings and its best known columnist, Julie Burchill, left because of what "I, as a non-Jew, perceive to be a quite striking bias against the state of Israel".

The Guardian was so famous for its cavalier attitude to spelling that it was once known, and quite fondly, as The Grauniad. Spell check has saved them that embarrassment, but not others.

In the 1990s, esteemed Soviet defector Oleg Gordievsky accused one of The Guardian's most senior editors of being an agent of his. Gordievsky said: "The KGB loved The Guardian. It was deemed highly susceptible to penetration."

In that editor's letter of resignation he conceded: "I took red gold."

The charitable trust that funds The Guardian's massive losses - and might soon run out of money - is named after the family of CP Scott, who edited the newspaper for 57 years.

It was CP who wrote the famous rule by which all editors of any era should abide and that must haunt his old newspaper today: "Comment is free, but facts are sacred."

Rusbridger would do well to make that his staff's screen saver.

Carbonista bushfire fallacies
(Article by Henry Ergas published in The Australian, 28 October 2013.)

LIKE the theologians Voltaire skewered for attributing the great Lisbon earthquake of 1755 to licentiousness and vice, the green lobby has seized on the NSW bushfires as a sign that the carbon tax must be retained.

After all, say these descendants of Voltaire's "grim speculators on the woes of man", what greater proof could there be of the start of the apocalypse than bushfires in October?

Ah, sighed Voltaire, "One short prayer I made to God: O Lord, make our enemies ridiculous! And he granted it." Indeed he did. For the carbonistas' claims are so absurd one has to stand in line to rebut them.

Had they bothered to check, even a cursory examination would have taught them that October fires hardly portend the end of days. On the contrary, October saw fires causing serious loss of property and life in NSW in 1928, 1936, 1968, 1984, 2001, 2002 and 2006.

Nor is there any evidence of increases in fire severity. The most careful analysis has been carried out by Macquarie University's professor John McAneney and his colleagues at Risk Frontiers, a research centre that provides modelling services to the insurance industry. Surveying the data from federation to the present, they conclude that "it is not possible to detect a greenhouse-gas climatic-change signal in the time series of Australian bushfire damage".

Yet, even were climate change adding to the threat from fires, the question would still be the most efficient way of responding. To believe Australia's unilateral carbon tax reduces the likelihood of global warming, and hence could cost-effectively avert an increase in bushfires, is on a par with faith in the tooth fairy.

But the tooth fairy leaves money under the pillow. The carbon tax, according to the previous government's own modelling, will impose losses with a present value as high as 83 per cent of current Australian GDP, or $1.25 trillion.

Far from enhancing the capacity to deal with natural disasters, making ourselves poorer reduces our ability to invest in mitigating threats and recovering from catastrophes. The carbon tax therefore aggravates the very problem it pretends to solve.

Rather, we need to address the root causes of bushfires' rising cost. As McAneney and his colleagues have shown, that increase is not due to a rise in the frequency, spread or intensity of fires, but to the ever greater number of people and buildings at risk. Controlling the resulting threat to life and property has required growing outlays on fire safety and mitigation, which now amount to nearly 1.5 per cent of GDP, only slightly less than current spending on defence.

Those outlays have been strikingly successful in reducing the harm from bushfires, with the probability of losing 25 or more houses in a week no higher today than it was in 1900. Bushfire-related property damage therefore accounts for only 10 per cent to 20 per cent of annual average losses from natural disasters while lives lost to bushfires are about one-tenth those due to structural fires in homes and less than 1 per cent of annual road fatalities.

But no amount of sacrifice by firefighters can eliminate the prospect of thousands of homes being destroyed, and of hundreds of lives being lost, in catastrophes such as the 2009 Black Saturday fires in Victoria. That is especially the case because of the continuing rise in the number of homes located on or near bushland.

The facts are stark: in extreme bushfires about 60 per cent of the homes within 50m of fire-affected bushland will be destroyed. In the 2009 fires, for example, 25 per cent of destroyed buildings in Kinglake and Marysville were located within the bushland boundary and 90 per cent were within 100m of it. Conversely, homes 700 or more metres from the boundary face virtually no risk of being lost.

Land use regulations therefore seem crucial in limiting the scope to build in places of greatest threat. At the same time, building codes should maximise the safety of any structures that are built.

But these are blunt tools, and they can readily have perverse effects. For instance, the rising safety requirements imposed on new buildings in fire-prone areas have made it cheaper to extend the life of existing structures than to replace them, increasing the average age of buildings and the danger to people in them.

Ultimately, these instruments do not signal to families and businesses locating in bushland the risks they are imposing on themselves and on the community. On the contrary, current policies subsidise risky locations, both by not requiring property owners to bear the full cost of firefighting and through the compensation provided when catastrophic fires occur.

Given those subsidies, it is unsurprising population pressures in fire-prone areas are as strong as they are. In contrast, obliging all building owners in those areas to be fully insured would increase the cost of living in those areas, possibly by 10 per cent to 20 per cent, thus helping to limit the population in harm's way. And insurers would have incentives to reward property owners who took mitigation measures while imposing higher premiums on those who didn't. Combining that with reasonable cost-recovery for fire suppression would make the gain in saved lives and property all the greater.

But such practical responses are of no interest whatsoever to the carbonistas. For their concern is not really with bush fires; it is solely with advancing their cause. Having elevated the carbon tax into a totem, they have descended from reason into superstition.

Voltaire knew all about that. Faced with moralists who thought renouncing "Lisbon's deeper drink of vice" could save "London, Paris, or sunlit Madrid", he cried "Ecrasez l'inf acime!": crush the infamy of superstition. More than two centuries on, that remains easier said than done.

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